An important aspect of fantasy football is getting ahead of the curve in player values. Dave Kluge has listed and highlighted some players who show a change in value and lets you know what to do with them in Week 14's "Three Up, Three Down" article.
Allow me to give you a little peek behind the curtain. As the season continues, writing this column becomes increasingly more challenging. Sure, Davante Adams, Garrett Wilson, Josh Jacobs, and Mark Andrews are all trending up right now. But how does writing about that benefit fantasy managers? They aren’t on waivers, and trade deadlines have presumably passed. I’ll be doing my best to provide actionable advice for the rest of the season.
Let’s start by looking at A.J. Dillon. I know, I know. He’s had a disappointing year. Before the season kicked off, he had crept up to the fourth round of drafts. Currently the RB29 in PPR scoring, he’s been a bust relative to his draft position. But with the Packers on bye in Week 14, he could end up on your waiver wire and makes for a savvy pickup. Dillon is tied with Derrick Henry as the league’s heaviest back. They are both bruisers with elite long speed. And while it’s common knowledge that Henry gets better as the season progresses, Dillon shares that trait. Comparing career splits from Week 1-9 to Week 10-18, Dillon sees an uptick in carries, targets, rushing yards, receiving yards, efficiency, touchdowns, and fantasy points down the stretch. In the former split, Dillon averages 4.2 yards per carry and 6.3 PPR points per game. Post-Week 10, that jumps to 4.7 yards per carry and 12.5 points. He’s coming off his best game of the season, where he rumbled for 119 yards and a score against the Bears. And after the bye, he gets the Rams, Dolphins, and Vikings, all favorable matchups for fantasy running backs. Aaron Jones didn’t see his usual workload in Week 13 as he was dealing with an ankle injury. But with Dillon returning to form as a dominant power back, expect to see the Packers give him some extra run in the colder months. He will make for a risky flex in Weeks 15-17, but his contingent upside in the event of an injury to Jones would vault him straight into the league-winner tier.
Once again, we’re trying to identify players who might be available and are trending up as we head into the fantasy playoffs. James Cook’s 43 percent snap share in Week 13 was the highest we have seen all season. Conversely, Devin Singletary logged just 44 percent, his lowest of the year. Not only did Cook see additional usage in Week 13, but he was much more efficient than Singletary. Cook amassed 105 scrimmage yards on 20 touches. Singletary went for 51 on 13. Singletary found paydirt, which skews the lens for fantasy, but there could be a changing of a guard happening here. The Bills expressed interest in Christian McCaffrey this offseason. They almost landed J.D. McKissic in free agency. They made a move for Nyheim Hines at the trade deadline. Ken Dorsey clearly thinks that a pass-catching back is the missing piece in this offense, and that’s exactly what Cook brings to the table. He has 11 targets over the last two games, tying and surpassing his season-highs in consecutive weeks. We see him get integrated more into the offense every week, and he may inevitably take over the backfield before Devin Singletary hits free agency this offseason. Still available in plenty of leagues, Cook’s profile as a big-play back with pass-catching upside should make him a priority add in all formats.
Only five players this year have strung together seven games with 50 or more yards: Stefon Diggs, CeeDee Lamb, Travis Kelce, Chris Olave, and Donovan Peoples-Jones. The third-year wide receiver has changed his game from a field-stretching decoy to a possession receiver. After 1.7 targets per game as a rookie, Peoples-Jones increase his targets per game to 4.1 in Year 2. And now, he’s second on the team in targets per game with a 5.7. While not a huge number, the deep depth of these targets makes them more valuable. He and Amari Cooper are efficiency clones of one another this year. They are both drawing quality targets downfield, averaging over 13.5 yards per catch. The significant differences have been in target share and touchdown rate. Cooper is pulling 27.5 percent on his team’s targets and has scored seven times. Peoples-Jones has accounted for 18.3 percent of the team’s targets and has just one offensive touchdown. But he showcased his elite speed and burst on a 72-yard punt return touchdown last week, just the second one in the NFL this year. After a pair of poor fantasy performances, Peoples-Jones could end up on your league’s waiver wire. In Deshaun Watson’s first game with the Browns, Peoples-Jones saw just three targets for 44 yards. The week before, four targets for 16 yards. But as Watson gets more comfortable in the offense, Peoples-Jones will hopefully see his output rise. Possessing 4.48 speed and 100th-percentile burst, his skillset should match up well with Watson’s big arm. Looking at Will Fuller V's success with Watson should paint the picture for Peoples-Jones’ upside. He makes for a decent flex in deep leagues as is. But if he can display a strong connection with Watson this upcoming week, his ceiling for the remainder of the season is sky-high.
Gus Edwards, Kenyan Drake, Justice Hill, J.K. Dobbins. Take your pick. This backfield is nearly impossible to predict on a week-to-week basis. All four backs have had at least one week as the backfield's snap leader. Edwards appeared to be the guy in Week 12, and then Drake took over again in Week 13. And now, with Dobbins planning to return from injury soon, who knows what to expect? Lamar Jackson is going to miss time, and there could be some extra opportunities for these backs, but it’s hard to confidently predict where they will go. Drake’s usage in the passing game gives him the highest ceiling of the bunch, but he has had multiple games this season with less than a single fantasy point. You can argue that Dobbins is the back to have due to his age and pedigree, but he suffered a setback almost as soon as he returned from a brutal knee injury. There was more than enough time to identify trends in Baltimore's backfield this year, and it’s been impossible. Don’t delude yourself into thinking you can crack the code during these crucial weeks at the end of the season. Keep all Ravens’ running backs on your bench for Week 14.
Given his draft capital this offseason, it’s a tough pill to swallow, but Brandin Cooks is probably someone to bench at this point. He’s the WR49 for the year. After amassing 22 targets in his first two weeks, he has yet to eclipse seven in a single game since. His role and production have slowly diminished as this season progresses. Dating back to Week 5, he is the WR64 in PPR scoring. He hasn’t scored a touchdown over that stretch. He is averaging just 5.8 targets per game. And now, with Kyle Allen under center, it’s hard to imagine that things suddenly get better. Simply put, Nico Collins has usurped the role of Houston’s WR1. Cooks has not out-targeted a healthy Collins since Week 4. In the last three games they have played together, Collins has 26 targets to Cooks’ 18. Cooks is the WR2 on arguably the league’s worst offense. If you’re playing him, you are praying for a long score because his usage makes his fantasy floor non-existent.
Tight ends are a headache. We know this. Just look at Week 13’s leading scorers at the position: Cade Otton, Greg Dulcich, Noah Fant, Evan Engram, Cole Kmet, Gerald Everett, and Chigoziem Okonkwo. To start the year, Tyler Higbee was one of the few set-and-forget tight ends. From Weeks 1-5, he averaged 9.6 targets per game and was the TE6 in scoring. And then Matthew Stafford started to decline as his elbow injury flared up noticeably. Higbee ran fewer routes and started blocking more often. Since Week 5, his targets dropped to 4.3 per game, and he is the TE33. And with Stafford out for the year now, it only got worse. Higbee is essentially a glorified tackle now. He spent 63 percent of his snaps as a blocker last week. With Stafford under center, Higbee never blocked on more than 50 percent. Higbee is simply not drawing enough usage or running enough routes to be fantasy relevant. Sure, you can plug him in and hope he scores a touchdown. But the Rams have lost six straight games and have one of the most anemic offenses in the league. Turn your sights from Higbee to Hayden Hurst, Foster Moreau, and Dawson Knox on the tight end carousel, who are all on much more potent offenses.
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